By Peggy Jordan
Mmmm. Fresh fish, perfectly prepared. Mouthwatering chicken or beef steak. All accompanied by delicious beverages, breads, and desserts.
Hungry? Perhaps now you’d like to learn a bit more about the Eastern Gourmands.
The first thing you’ll discover is the difference between a gourmet and a gourmand. Chapter president Hubie Register, F245294, explained: “Gourmand, from the dictionary, is someone who enjoys food in fine quality and great quantity, as opposed to a gourmet, who is a discerning eater.” So, a gourmand is someone who likes to eat, and what he or she likes best is a step above fast food. As Hubie put it, “We’re not into hamburgers.”
Then again, if you’re a gourmand, you are not required to patronize the top restaurant in town, where a meal for two can set you back a few hundred dollars. “We try to find a restaurant that’s not five-star type, so it’s an affordable evening for people who want to go,” Hubie said.
As most readers might imagine, this concept is attractive. The chapter now numbers between 70 and 75 people (37 families), yet it was formed only last spring. It began after several folks, most of them already members of various Eastern Area chapters, decided to put together a group that focused on dining out. The formation meeting took place at the Cozy Acres Campground, C6130 (owned by chapter members Larry and Jean Daniel, F143338), in Powhatan, Virginia, in April 2005.
After being formed, the chapter’s first official meeting was held last August in Minot, North Dakota, during FMCA’s 74th International Convention. While there, the group dined on upscale Midwestern fare at the 10 North Main restaurant.
Later in the year they visited Harrington, Delaware, during the Great Eastern Area Rally, where they all met for dinner at The Grandstand, a tiered restaurant with a great view of the races at the Delaware State Fairgrounds’ harness track. This was followed by a holiday get-together for seafood at the Seafare Restaurant in Williamsburg, Virginia, last December, and most recently by a smaller gathering at L’Italia in Richmond.
Since the chapter focuses on food and good restaurants, these FMCAers don’t hold rallies like other groups. They don’t rent out campsites for a few nights, set up activities, hold potlucks, and so forth. However, Hubie said that if a campground exists near an area with nice restaurants, they could plan to stay there and go out locally for their meals. “That could qualify as a rally,” he said.
The members of the group are mostly from Virginia “” 25 member families are from that state – but six other states and Canada are represented, too. “As we travel around, people start asking and want to join,” Hubie said. Unfortunately, he added that they may need to put a limit on the size of the group, because the bigger it gets, the harder it is for everyone to meet together at a restaurant. Hubie said that trying to find a place that can hold 70 to 75 people, which is how many they’d have if everyone attended a dinner, is difficult.
What is simple, or has been so far, is the choosing of the restaurants. Hubie said the group defers to its area experts. Most members have traveled extensively. They’ve sampled Alaskan foods; foods from the Northwest and Southwest; and Canadian foods across the provinces. Generally speaking, anyplace they go, somebody in the chapter will know what type of food is representative of the area, and usually someone will be able to recommend a specific restaurant.
For 2006, the chapter plans to eat out during a springtime Virginia statewide rally in Urbanna, a waterfront town near the Chesapeake Bay. After that, Hubie said, “We plan them as we go along.” The chapter will probably get together during a chapter rally and then probably try to visit another FMCA international convention or area rally.
“Basically what we’re trying to do is, anytime a group of us is together, to just go out to dinner.”
The Eastern Gourmands chapter dues are $5 per year. For more information, contact FMCA’s Chapter Services department at (800) 543-3622.